Students explore cultural heritage through art

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A Drawing and Painting class works on projects depicting aspects of students’ cultures. The works will be displayed in the atrium starting Jan. 17.

Zareen Johnson, Contributing Writer

Port Washington students come from varied cultural backgrounds, and art students in Foundations in Studio Art and Drawing and Painting classes recently explored this heritage with a project called “Ancestors and Artifacts.”

The project was organized by the Great Neck Art Center (GNAC), which sent two visitors to art classes to teach students about oral history and the personal importance of heritage.

For this project, students had to interview one of their relatives in order to learn about their ancestors and any significant family artifacts.

“I liked the project because because I got to show something interesting about my family in Vermont,” said junior Trudy Grussinger.

They then used what they discovered to create either a “heritage box” or personal icons using artistic mediums.

The GNAC visitors, Ms. Sonia Arora and Ms. Tracy Walzer, also taught classes about poetry and assemblage art.  All participating students wrote poems based on quotes from their interviews, and incorporated these poems into their artwork.

Art classes have done similar projects in the past, but this is the first time that the GNAC has participated in the process, and also the first time students incorporated interviews and oral history.

“All the students did family history interviews,” said art teacher Ms. Miranda Best.  “The pieces were more meaningful and more personal than in the past.”

Six Studio in Art classes and two Drawing and Painting classes participated in the program.  The Studio in Art classes’ heritage boxes and the personal icons created by the Drawing and Painting classes will be on display in the atrium beginning Jan. 17.

“Having people look at my amazing work of art makes me feel like Oprah Winfrey,” said sophomore Christian Esposito. “Finally, it is I who is giving back to society.”

The project was slightly different than in years past.

“This was a new experience,” said Ms. Best.  “I haven’t worked with the art center before, and I think we’ll continue with the program in the future.”